Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 64.djvu/99

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95
THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE.

exploited in the newspapers. One of the subjects that has attracted particular attention recently is the aerodrome of Dr. S. P. Langley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. The somewhat sensational character of the attempt to fly and the secrecy with which the proceedings are surrounded have naturally excited public curiosity, and the newspapers have found the failure of the machines a good opportunity for jokes, so that we read of 'airships as submarines' and the like.

 

PSM V64 D099 The aerodrome as it might appear in the air.png

The Aerodrome as it might appear in the Air.

 

Dr. Langley has carried forward important researches in aerodynamics, and has done more than any one else toward constructing an aeroplane that would fly. After numerous experiments and failures a machine was launched in 1896 that stayed in the air from one to two minutes. We reproduce from the 'Report' of the Smithsonian Institution for 1900, two pictures of this aerodrome, one an imaginary sketch, the other from a photograph taken by Dr. A. Graham Bell. The total length was about 16 feet and the width between the wings about 12 feet. The weight was about 30 pounds, of which one fourth was represented by the machinery, the engines, which could supply one to one and a half horse-power, weighing 26 ounces, and the boiler about 5 pounds.

 

PSM V64 D099 The aerodrome ready for launching.png

The Aerodrome. Ready for Launching.

 

Dr. Langley has not published a scientific account of his work, but contributed a popular article to McGlure's Magazine for June, 1897, which he reprinted in the 'Report' of the Smithsonian Institution for 1900, and to this our readers may refer. It appears to us that Dr. Langley takes rather too little credit for his work on aerodynamics and rather too much for the practical success of his flying machine. Hundreds of patents for aeroplanes had been taken previously, and toys had been constructed that would fly. The Langley aerodrome was not steered, nor tried in a breeze, nor able to carry any weight, nor kept in the air as long as two minutes. This record has of course been much surpassed by dirigible balloons and perhaps by artificial flight. Aeroplanes can doubtless be made to fly; as Lord Rayleigh, quoting Mr. Maxim, has said, 'it is mainly a question of some time and much money.' Aeroplanes will probably be used for military purposes and for adventure, but not for the ordinary uses of transportation and commerce. Dr. Langley seems to claim too much when he writes in a popular magazine that he has demonstrated the practicability of mechanical flight and that 'the great universal highway overhead is now soon to be opened'; that aerodromes 'may be built to remain days in the